The aim of religion is to carefully instruct and encourage you to believe in specific doctrines, dogmas and traditions with regards to God. Any deviation from these would subject you to prescribed penalties designed to keep you in compliance with those doctrines, dogmas and traditions.
Spirituality, on the other hand, encourages you to ask questions, evaluate the
answers from them, and draw your own conclusion based on what you've heard, read and experienced with regards to God, who is appropriately called the "Universal Consciousness" because he is present everywhere.
While religion can open the door to spirituality, spirituality is not necessarily a consequence of religion. Meaning, while religion in itself is not a hindrance to spirituality, it can become a hindrance to the extent that it imposes limitation on thinking outside the box regarding the question,"Does God Exist".
Nowhere is the push for thinking outside the box more telling than in the evolution of the human mind, and its expanding capacity to reason. This is the driving force behind the movement away from religion, in favor of spirituality, because the human mind is inquisitive, analytical and solution oriented, and does not uncritically submit itself to doctrines, dogmas and traditions written in stones.
However, I have found that the pursuit of the knowledge about God can go astray without a guiding light. Through the ages, God has revealed himself and his purpose for humankind to few selected men and women. These revelations have been codified in the holy books of the major religions.
Since I was brought up as a Christian, the bible is my guiding light for finding the answer to the question, "Does God Exist". I should add that the bible is not the only book of God. It is one among many books of God. Which is to say, it is narrow thinking to claim that one religion is better than another, or one holy book is truer than another.
For me as a Christian, the bible is the true book of God. Just as for a Muslim, the quran is the true book of God. Accepting this takes nothing away from my spirituality, and my pursuit to connect with God in spirit.
For me as a Christian, God's purpose for humankind is revealed in Matthew 7:21-23. The relevant question that arises from the quoted passage is, "What is the will of God". In Matthew 22:37-40, we read in effect that God's will is that you, "Treat your neighbors as you would want to be treated".
Practicing this spiritual principle, allows the human soul to be receptive to the spirit of God. This has been known and taught in all the major religions for centuries. The problem is that the word "neighbors" has been often misunderstood to mean only those in your religion, fraternity or social group. Nothing could be more wrong.
Your neighbors include all people from all religions, fraternities and social groups. When we rise to this level of enlightenment, we are able to find solutions to problems that are mutually beneficial to all affected parties. Not only that, we also elevate ourselves spiritually to the level of God, and are enabled to connect with God in spirit.
The twin rewards from this spiritual enlightenment are peace with our neighbors, and the gift of God's wisdom and power to help us find practical solutions to the problems that torment our minds and bodies. To read more about God's wisdom and power click here.
The Evolution Of My Thoughts On God And Religion
I was raised a Christian and carefully taught to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that nobody could connect spiritually with God and be saved except through Jesus Christ. Over the years, I inferred from this that all non Christians would not be saved. In my conversations and writings I have presented my belief as incontrovertible facts to anyone who cared to listen to me, or read my work.
As I matured spiritually, I began questioning the belief that God would save only Christians, and would destroy the rest of humanity because they did not accept Jesus Christ as the son of God. It also dawned on me that people in different parts of the world, influenced by elements unique to their environment would, as a matter of course, develop traditions and cultures different from those in my part of the world. This being true, it is obvious that there would be different religions in different parts of the world, each created by the unique traditions and cultures of its followers.
Having realized this, it made no sense to me when a Christian says only Christians would be saved because the bible says so. Since followers of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Sikhism, Baha'i, Jainism, Shinto and other religions would also claim they are the only true believers who would be saved because their holy books say so. This argument on who is a true believer and who is not has driven followers of each religion to circle the wagons, accepting those within the circle as true believers, and those outside as infidels. The consequence has been intolerance, wars, mayhem and death, there in the pages of history for all to see.
Meanwhile, believers are asking, "Where is God?" Bad things are happening to good people. They lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance, they lose their homes, their lives fall apart before their eyes. They are involved in violent accidents, or struck down by degenerative diseases that leave them disabled. Their children are born with congenital diseases that deprive them of ever living a normal life, or are struck by a terminal disease like cancer that kills them even before they've had the chance to know what life is all about.
Thinking about these life changing events believers ask, why me? They have become skeptical of God and his relevance in their everyday lives. They are not getting the answers they seek from God, and are venting their displeasure by walking away from organized religion in large numbers, raising the inescapable question, "Does God exist at all?"
I believe the Universal Consciousness (God) exists, on the strength of the argument that the earth and life could not have come from nothing. Even as I write this, I am challenged by the question: if there was nothing before God, isn't it conceivable that God came from nothing? And if this is true, am I not agreeing with Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss that life and the universe came from nothing? I would admit trying to answer this question logically is like entering a black hole where time stops, and light cannot survive.
All the same, while cosmologists work on their mathematical models to prove that everything came from nothing, I believe that in the beginning was the Universal Consciousness from whom came all there is. Your question would be, if so how did the Universal Consciousness come into existence? This question can neither be answered by the tools of science, nor by logic. It is a spiritual question answerable only by faith which is the tool of the spirit. And contrary to the popular notion, faith is not believing blindly. Faith is the pursuit of spiritual knowledge.
The Universal Consciousness
You may have noticed I am calling God by the name Universal Consciousness. I am doing so because I don't want to be tied to any one religion, and secondly, the Universal Consciousness is no respecter of man or woman. He puts no person or group of persons above all others. The Universal Consciousness is absolute good, and he reveals his goodness through love made equally available to all who live by the universal divine law of good and evil which reads, "In everything you do, treat your neighbors as you would want to be treated". And as proof of it's universality, in one form or another this law is found in every major religion around the world.
Living by the universal divine law of good and evil is the only means by which